Il Freedom of information act: un'occasione per le biblioteche?


Issued on 1966, the Freedom of information act is certainly the most famous law regarding the right of access to public information. Often mentioned with the Privacy act, this text could be very important also for services to users for public, research or other kind of libraries. Importance connected with the necessity of giving to a user who is looking for a subject all the possible kind of information, traditional or not. So the opportunity to give the access to the documents produced by the United States public administration could be very useful for a library user.
After a brief talk about the problem of the sources that can be useful for a panoramic view on the Freedom of Information Act, the law is examined more detailed.
Using the FOIA. it's possible to ask government agencies to disclose certain types of records.
FOIA defines an agency in that way: the agencies, offices and departments of the Executive branch of the federal government; independent federal regulatory agencies; federal government-controlled corporations. But FOIA does not apply to the federal entities, like the Congress, the Federal Courts or executive office staff such as the White House Chief of Staff, State and local government agencies or private organizations.
There are also three exclusions and nine exemptions. If a record falls within any of these, an agency may refuse to disclose it, or denies the existence of the record itself if it falls within the three exclusions.
It is important to remember that these exemptions are not mandatory, but discretionary. That means an agency can choose to release records to you even after it has determined the records fall within one or more of the above exemptions. The agency can also choose to give access to a record after the portions which are exempt have been deleted from it. There must be other two circumstances to access the record required. The agency record must already exists, because FOIA does not require an agency to create a record just to satisfy your request. The record must be within both the possession and the control of the federal agency at the time you make your FOIA request.
The law establishes also times and costs for the answer of the agency and the eventual administrative appeal.
It's a good practice to make a request under both Freedom of information act and privacy Act.
The Privacy act, issued in 1974, give the right to U.S. citizens or permanent residents to ask government agencies about records regarding themselves. The Privacy act provides low costs and less exemptions.
In 1996 the Freedom of information act was amended to be confirmed to the electronic documents.
At last a brief comparison between FOIA. and the Italian situation gives the evidence that the Italian law n. 241 of 1990, Nuove norme in materia di procedimento amministrativo e di diritto di accesso ai documenti amministrativi, is better comparable with the Privacy act that with the Freedom of information act

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